- Associated Press - Monday, March 12, 2018

March 12, 2018

The Quincy Herald-Whig

Quality jobs are available for skilled workers

Illinois manufacturers say they will have at least 27,000 quality jobs available each year for the next five years.

What they need now are enough workers with the skills to fill those jobs.

Jim Nelson, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, last week was echoing a call for willing, well-trained workers to replace a huge cohort of experienced workers now nearing retirement. “Manufacturers need 22,000 production workers and 5,000 engineers every year, for the next five years … just to cover retirements of the baby boomers,” Nelson told the Illinois News Network.

For employers, this is a looming problem. For job seekers, it is a tremendous opportunity.

Quincy area educators, manufacturers and economic development officials have been sounding the alarm and doing their best to prepare for the generational jobs shift for several years.

John Wood Community College, the Quincy Area Vocational Technical Center and the West-Central Illinois Region Education for Employment System are among institutions that have been collaborating with local businesses to tailor training programs.

Several employers have started programs that repay workers who pass courses that are needed for higher-skill jobs. Manufacturers from Illinois, Missouri and Iowa will be gathering at JWCC for the Tri-State Manufacturing conference Wednesday to learn more about recruiting skilled workers.

The Great River Economic Development Foundation has helped with an annual Manufacturing Expo so that high school students can see what modern manufacturing in action.

“We encourage our students to look at manufacturing as a career and not just a job,” GREDF President Marcel Wagner Jr. told The Herald-Whig.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are more than 5,100 manufacturing jobs in Adams County, with average annual wages of more than $50,000. Some jobs involve computers, robotic devices, 3-D printers and other high-tech devices. But employers also need welders, craftsmen, drivers, supervisors and many other professionals. Jobs are available now, and more jobs will need to be filled for years to come.

Workers who are willing to upgrade their skills should check out the training programs being offered locally. Students who are open to vocational training or apprenticeships should contact GREDF, which can get interested people plugged into the right programs.

It’s worth a little extra work to land that quality job.


March 10, 2018

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Going the wrong way

Public anger over what their elected officials have done to this state remains high.

Public opinion polls represent snapshots in time that are subject to change as events unfold. But the people of Illinois have been remarkably consistent in recent years when responding to one particular question:

Is Illinois headed in the right direction or the wrong direction?

A recent poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale shows an overwhelming majority of Illinoisans is disgusted with the state of the state.

The Simon poll showed that 84 percent of respondents believe the state is headed in the wrong direction. That raises a question - why only 84 percent?

The institute reports that 9 percent of respondents stated that Illinois is headed in the right direction. That raises another question - what have they been smoking?

The Simon poll was conducted between Feb. 19 and Feb. 25. It solicited the opinions of 1,001 registered voters and the results have margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

While 84 percent of respondent indicated that Illinois is headed in the wrong direction, 64 percent of respondents opined that the country is headed in the wrong direction, with 27 percent expressing satisfaction with the direction of the nation and another 9 percent expressing no opinion.

Given the state’s financial and political dysfunction, it is no surprise that people are disgusted with how the state has been run into the ground. The question in this election year is, what they intend to do about it?

The results were no surprise there either. Illinois is a solid Democratic state, explaining why 43 percent of poll respondents believe the Democratic Party “best represents” their interest in Congress compared with just 28 percent support for Republicans.

There was one optimistic note - people appear to be relatively happy with the communities in which they live.

The poll reports that 54 percent of respondents believe their local communities are headed in the right direction. At the same time, 37 percent of respondents said their local communities are going in the wrong direction and 10 percent had no opinion.

In a couple other interesting notes, the poll showed that voters distrust their elected representatives in the General Assembly, with 85 percent supporting a one-year ban on legislators becoming lobbyists.

While spurning legislators, they are embracing legalized marijuana - 66 percent of respondents favoring recreational use of marijuana being legalized and regulated like alcohol.


March 9, 2018

Chicago Sun-Times

Knowing where state employees work shouldn’t be a hard job

Budget shenanigans are a tradition in Springfield, but they make it hard to ensure the state is spending its money wisely. Now, lawmakers have a chance to get behind a truth-in-budgeting initiative by Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza to make the state budget more transparent. They should seize the opportunity.

In a report, Mendoza said most of the staffers who work directly for Gov. Bruce Rauner are actually hidden in the budgets of other state agencies. That’s a bad practice. We need an accurate picture that shows precisely who is working where.

If you looked at the Illinois payroll, you’d think the state was spending $4.9 million a year to run the governor’s office. In reality, according to Mendoza, the total is more than $10 million. Of 102 workers, most of them - 58 - are toiling away under budgetary aliases.

Where else can budgetary numbers be off by more than 100 percent, and it’s supposed to be business as usual?

State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, a co-sponsor of legislation pushed by Mendoza that would fix this, told us, “It’s not an honest representation of the real costs of government.”

Governors, both Republicans and Democrats, have engaged in this practice - which they call “offshoring” - at least since the days of former Gov. George Ryan. Now is a good time to stop. Offshoring not only obscures the true costs of running the governor’s office, it also means other agencies, such as the State Police or the Department of Human Services, have to make do with a smaller amount of money each year than the Legislature intended.

This isn’t to say the offshored employees aren’t necessary or aren’t doing a good job. But the more accurate the budget is, the easier it is to spot potential savings that would benefit the taxpayer.

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, for example, thinks a more transparent budget would make it clearer that Rauner doesn’t need two deputy governors on his payroll, particularly because Rauner helped shoot down the idea of eliminating the office of lieutenant governor.

McSweeney, also a co-sponsor of the legislation, says it will ensure future governors don’t hide their workers elsewhere in the state budget.

A state budget is all about setting priorities. Concealing things from the public shouldn’t be one of them.

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